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Backpage Catalytic Jam Latest project by artists Havel and Ruck inspired by Fifth Ward’s music heritage by Fernando Brave, FAIA

Clockwise from top right  Dean Ruck, Sherman Miller, and Dan Havel take five. The artists improvised with found materials. Intended as a temporary public sculpture, “Fifth Ward Jam” will stay on the site at least through October 2014.


ike the music that inspired Dan Havel and Dean Ruck of Havel Ruck Projects to make Fifth Ward Jam, their latest collaboration is a social experiment. The duo, with help from local resident Sherman Miller, assembled Fifth Ward Jam using materials scavenged from dilapidated buildings in the Houston neighborhood. Their sculptural intervention appears to pulse with movement, evoking a dynamism that resonates harmonically with the Fifth Ward’s rich heritage of blues, soul, jazz, zydeco, and hip hop. An abandoned house moved from over a mile away provided the central element. Also intricate to the project was the special permit concocted by the City of Houston that listed the structure as a house to be relocated and delivered to the site as a sculpture. “Somehow,” the artists say, “the house magically ceased to be a house during its journey.” As realized by the artists, the combination of chutes, tunnels, and sightlines coalesces in a coherent organic form. At the same time, the implied forces of movement seem to tear the object apart in multiple directions. This stretching, twisting, and pulling hints of its conceptual origins in improvised music, and serves as an appropriate backdrop for impromptu performances on the stage extending from the bandshell-like space.

Fifth Ward Jam was funded with an Artist in Neighborhood grant from the Houston Arts Alliance as part of a program that seeks to spur catalytic change through public art of temporary nature. According to Ruck, Sherman Miller’s

Havel Ruck Projects assembled ‘Fifth Ward Jam’ using materials scavenged from dilapidated buildings. spontaneous participation proved to be just the type of catalytic transformation hoped for by the project’s benefactors. A resident of the neighborhood, he approached the artists and asked for work shortly after they arrived to begin the project. Ruck says Miller didn’t immediately buy into the concept, but later became integral to the process. Havel Ruck Projects previously created Inversion, a short-lived installation along Montrose Boulevard that was profiled in Texas Architect’s July/August 2005 edition. The latest project, located at 3705 Lyons Avenue just northeast of downtown Houston, received additional support from the Fifth Ward Community Redevelopment Corporation. Fernando Brave, FAIA, is principal of Brave/Architecture in Houston.

Images Courtesy Havel Ruck Projects and Fernando Brave

68 Texas Architect

3/4 2012

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